Kunisada, Portraits from Hit Plays of Both Historical Stories and Modern Life - Otomi

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Portraits From Hit Plays of Both Historical Stories and Modern Life (Jidai sewa sugatami): Otomi,1858. Oban.

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This is a very handsome print of the night-time streets of the Yoshiwara district of Edo, with an actor playing the role of the heroine Otomi from the popular play of the period, Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi. Kunisada was especially adept at these dusk scenes; the background of this print - the sharp perspectives of the timber houses and the lit windows - is derived from an 1830 print of his entitled Night in the Yoshiwara, considered a masterpiece of the genre. Called uki-e, meaning literally 'floating picture' or 'perspective picture,' these scenes, drawn with a low horizon and one point perspective are relatively rare.

Here, Kunisada sets the tragic heroine of the play against his beautifully modulated night scene. The handling and the balance of colours is especially skilled; the charcoal greys of the background and the delicate tones of the girl’s kimono are deliciously offset with the incidents of burnt orange in the kimono lining and the cartouches. It is interesting in this series to see how adept the ukiyo-e artists were at perspective when they chose to be and how great was the influence of these scenes on later, western artists such as Whistler.

This print is very fine. Trimmed to the margin, colour and impression are excellent and there are no condition issues. This print is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Published by Uoya Eikichi. Block cutter: Hori Take.

14 ½  x 10 ½ inches.